Project ends cycle of female poverty

The Eastern Highlands Foundation (EHF) is hoping to end the cycle of poverty for women in Nyanga district by providing employment opportunities and educational training.

Sarah Kapenzi - The project is a bridge program aimed at helping destitute and empoverished women.
Sarah Kapenzi – The project is a bridge program aimed at helping destitute and empoverished women.

The foundation, established in 2009, is training 25 vulnerable women to create artisan jewellery and using the profits to send their children to school, while giving the women the ability to support themselves.

The non-profit group plans to send 10 women to the United States in July to strengthen its operations.

“We targeted the vulnerable women so that we could come up with a way to give them tools to pull themselves out of their difficult circumstances,” said Moulin Hungwe, 41, the founder of the Foundation.

“We did not want to just give them hand outs. We wanted to provide them with skills and an opportunity to work. We trained them to make jewellery and many of them have proved to be good,” said Hungwe.

“We want to bring some light so that these women can grow and reach their potential. We are also trying to connect women and people around the world so that they can empower themselves and become economically viable,” she added.

The foundation is working with Help International, another NGO, to organise vulnerable women to participate in community projects. “We are going to have a lot of workshops and discussions about the sustainability of the impoverished women in order make a lasting impact, especially for this target group that really had no education,” Hungwe said.

Start businesses

Most of women in the group had problems sending their children to school as they were often single mothers and did not receive support from their spouses.

“We decided to create a social business to try to support the women. So far, as a foundation we have given them courses in literacy, business and health. We also work with them one-on-one to create business plans so they can start their own businesses in something they are passionate about when they feel ready,” she said.

Following the success of the artisan jewellery project, all of the women’s children are in school.

Some of the women doing the artisnal jewelry.
Some of the women doing the artisnal jewelry.

Sarah Kapenzi does some of the training. “Now these women can support themselves financially and take care of their health. I would like to view this project as a bridge to help these women who are otherwise destitute and impoverished be able to break their cycle of poverty, have their kids in school and then one day maybe even start their own businesses,” she said.

The women are nominated by the local community headed by a ward councillor and a traditional leader.

Giving back

EHF hopes to empower the women to use their new skills to help others in their communities. “We also really try to help them reach out in the community and be leaders as well,” said Kapenzi.

“They have already done various nutrition seminars for other women in their community and are involved in other volunteer-type of things. This gives them the self-confidence to be leaders, and also helps them to feel like they’re giving back and building the people around them,” said Kapenzi.

One of the women who has benefited from the project, Grace Gama, is a good example of what the charity hopes to accomplish.

After she learnt that AIDS caused her husband’s death, she found out she and her children were also HIV positive. Although Gama was more educated than others, no one would associate with her because of the stigma against her condition. As a result, her health continued to deteriorate until she came in contact with EHF.

Life is great

Now she is one of their best members in the project and has been able to take charge of her health and nutrition. She serves as the leader and representative of the foundation on local and international platforms.

“I am happy to see myself in this kind of transformation. I have been given the opportunity to reach my potential. I am proud of EHF for it has given me the abilities and intelligence to survive. My life has been great to see over the past couple of years,” Gama said.

She will be attending the jewellery exhibition in the United States. “We are delighted that we will be able to physically interact with the various organisations that are part of this enterprise and learn about what they have accomplished in the past few years in their countries,” she said.

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